Long Way to Go: Black and White in America

Long Way to Go: Black and White in America

by Jonathan Coleman

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Drawing on countless interviews (marked by astonishing frankness), on diaries, journals, and letters, on events he himself witnessed, and weaving it all into the context of history, Coleman introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters: an alderman who revives a chapter of the Black Panthers and threatens guerilla warfare if certain demands are not met ... a… See more details below


Drawing on countless interviews (marked by astonishing frankness), on diaries, journals, and letters, on events he himself witnessed, and weaving it all into the context of history, Coleman introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters: an alderman who revives a chapter of the Black Panthers and threatens guerilla warfare if certain demands are not met ... a sixties revolutionary who becomes school superintendent ... a white woman who insists she has "earned" her racism ... another who becomes painfully aware of the "privileges" she has just because she is white ... a black family determined that gangs not force them out of their neighborhood ... a Rotarian who wonders why, given everybody's "good intentions," things are still the way they are. By looking at America through the window of Milwaukee, Coleman's journey through the minefield of race becomes our journey. His book is a marvelously constructed tapestry whose power is cumulative, yet one that allows us to look unflinchingly at each individual strand of race in the 1990s - from the ongoing changes in welfare and affirmative action to the successes and failures of integration; from the appointment of Clarence Thomas and the Los Angeles riots to O. J. Simpson and the Million Man March; from life in the ghetto to the lives of those who have escaped it and now exist uneasily in the mainstream; from the bitterness of white conservatives - and the rise of black onesto the disillusionment of white liberals; and many others....

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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer
A page-turner....We have to find out what happens [to the people Coleman interviews]....Every story they tell pushes through teh stereotype we may have expected and reveals a distinct viewpoint rich with ambiguities.
Washington Times
Disturbing....This is a thought-provoking book and only a few writers are as honest as Mr. Coleman in revealing their own emotions on so many sensitive subjects.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Trying to get a handle on our nation's racial dilemmas, Coleman (Exit the Rainmaker) visited Milwaukee regularly over a period of years and recruited a diverse cast of characters for this wide-ranging narrative. He meets blacks who claim victimization and others emphasizing self-reliance; he finds racist whites at a workshop that forces them to confront their unspoken privilege (like the capacity to go shopping without harassment). "Equality in law was not equality in fact," Coleman declares, noting how blacks still lack power and acceptance. But he also portrays an activist-turned-schools superintendent, Howard Fullerthe book's most interesting characterwho prods his students to discern when race and class matter and when they don't. The author backhandedly defends affirmative action but calls it mostly irrelevant to the ghetto poor. On the question of race outside the underclass, he urges whites to move beyond racism and blacks beyond victimhood. But his exhortation, "Each of us must be allowed to be who we are, and to be respected for who we are," begs a large question: how do public policies affect how blacks are treated? Though lacking the statistical analysis that would sort out policy questions, the book remains thought-provoking. His first-person stylevivid, concerned and earnesttouches many facets of our racial debate. 65,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Coleman's new book is a stunner. The former journalist and television news producer tackles the prickly topic of racism in the United States, particularly through the prism of both black and white citizens of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Coleman's narrative technique is superb, mixing investigative reporting with the storytelling style of the late Charles Kurault; the reader will become steadily engrossed while meeting people drawn from all walks of life as they spin their tales of how they view the specter of racism in America. While Coleman is sympathetic to most of the African American community members he meets, he intellectually distances himself from some of their ideas that he sees as ill-founded or self-serving. A brilliant work that approaches racism in America through the eyes, mouths, and hearts of those who have lived through it on the front lines. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/97.]Stephen W. Green, Auraria Lib., Denver
An analysis of race relations in America using Milwaukee as a window on the rest of the nation. The author of the bestsellers and uses interviews, diaries, letters, and his own experiences as a reporter to assess the progress that has been made since the days of the civil rights movement and to show how much more work is still ahead. He tells his story through a wide cast of characters, from an alderman who threatens guerrilla warfare to a sixties revolutionary who became a school superintendent. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
In the best tradition of journalistic portraits of urban race relations, a writer's earnest and generous search for some sign of hope in an all-too-typically segregated American city.

Coleman (At Mother's Request, 1985; Exit the Rainmaker, 1989) spent several months in Milwaukee, a city with a particularly stark racial gap, exploring the intransigent and increasingly dramatic division of American society. Loosely framed by the events that feed the media's discourse on race (Clarence Thomas, Rodney King, etc.), Coleman's account follows his journey, variously enlightening and frustrating, through the conversations that do and do not take place among people facing their own community in crisis. Coleman's generic feature-journalism writing style is unremarkable, but it is his reportorial skills that count, and the real voices of his book are those of the women and men struggling with a momentous historical burden as they conduct lives near Milwaukee's racial fault lines: community activists, city politicians, determined single parents, whites attempting to face their own roles in Milwaukee's dividedness. Their accounts of their experiences, ideals, and anger speak very vividly for themselves, and Coleman effortlessly weaves the pasts that brought them to this present-day impasse into a broad historical context. Indeed, Coleman is constantly attentive to the impact of wider issues (especially long-term economic forces) and other social divisions (especially class). But he invariably returns to the unique way that race penetrates deep into people's perceptions, assumptions, and actions, including his own, even as he gains an understanding of the failures of integration as it has been practiced.

If Coleman inevitably finds little in the way of answers to such dilemmas, he and his readers depart Milwaukee with a richly expanded consciousness of their scope and seriousness, and of the lives at stake in them.

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Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.45(w) x 9.43(h) x 1.55(d)

What People are saying about this

Morris Dees
Not since Gunnar Myrdal's An American Dilemma has anyone laid bare America's racial problems with such clarity, insight and drama. Coleman has written a classic.
Andrew Hacker
Breaks new and important ground....History and journalism at its best.

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